Picks and Pans Review: The Great Depression
Continuity is not a strong point of this 4-hour documentary miniseries, for which a more accurate title might be The '30s, in No Particular Order. Part 1 starts with a superficial treatment of the 1929 stock-market crash and President Herbert Hoover's economic policies, then dwells disproportionately on the marathon-dance craze, then makes a stumbling transition to Hoover's doomed reelection race against Franklin Roosevelt. "In the fall of 1932," says narrator Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor, "an intricate dance of a different kind was winding down, and it was plain to see who would drop by the wayside." Stop the music, somebody.
Still, The Great Depression has virtues, among them Cuomo's contribution. His voice-over delivery is professional; his on-camera introductions are smooth but with a personal touch. (If he's not eyeing a political comeback, he might try car commercials.) Part 3 includes compelling segments on labor strife in the textile and steel industries, and the final hour offers a dramatic account of the Bonus March, a 1932 demonstration in Washington by World War I veterans that was violently suppressed. But what is this infamous Hoover Administration incident doing on Thursday night, when we've been hearing about President Roosevelt since Monday?